Sumidero Canyon: How We Should Have Done It
Oh Chiapas. This central state in Mexico is one that caught us by surprise when we saw there was more to see and do than we would have time for. Between the crystal blue waters at Agua Azul, the ancient ruins of Palenque and Montebello National Park, Chiapas certainly makes it hard to choose for indecisive travellers like us. In the end, we settled on visiting the Sumidero Canyon near Chiapa de Corzo and had no regrets. But we definitely learned a thing or two along the way...
Chances are, if you're visiting Chiapas, you've decided to make San Cristobal de las Casas your base. And that is something we definitely agree with! We had 5 amazing days in San Cristobal and would highly recommend taking a day trip to the canyon from here (instead of doing what we did). Day trips to Sumidero Canyon and the town of Chiapa de Corzo leave daily from San Cristobal and are very affordable. Tours through our hostel were quoted at $300 pesos but a walk about town revealed small companies offering the tour for even $250 pesos per person.
Most tours will include transportation to and from San Cristobal, a bit of free time in Chiapa de Corzo and a 2 hour boat ride through the Sumidero Canyon. But the canyon is more than just a river boat ride so, for those that have time, try to look for a tour that incorporates the lookout points as well. There are 6 lookout points or 'miradores' offering fantastic views of the river and canyon but, since we had a short flight the same day, we were pressed for time and missed the lookout points :(
So where did we go wrong? Well, when I looked at the map and saw that the canyon is actually closer to Tuxtla, we left San Cristobal without visiting the canyon because we thought we'd just go from Tuxtla instead. (Side note: The main reason we were going to Tuxtla was because our flight to Cancun left from the airport near Tuxtla. Otherwise, feel free to skip this city!)
Anyways, we get to Tuxtla expecting tours to be cheaper since we were now even closer to the canyon than before. We were wrong. Once we arrived to our hostel in Tuxtla, the receptionist told us the canyon tour (including lookout points) would be $450 pesos! The cheaper option was a tour with just the boat ride included but even that was $350 pesos which is more than we were quoted back in San Cristobal. I was kicking myself but, once we googled a bit, we realized we'd be able to save money by skipping the tour altogether.
Lucky for us, there are very affordable colectivos (shared taxi vans) operating several times a day from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Chiapa de Corzo. The ride cost us $14 pesos each, was about 40 minutes total and there were several stops along the way to either pick up or drop off people. The driver collects payment once you've arrived and you can let him know you want to get off at the parque principal or the main square in Chiapa de Corzo. Chances are that once you arrive to the main square, tour vendors will spot you out and lead you right to the boat tours. There are a handful of different boarding docks along the canyon river but two of the main ones are a short walk from the town square of Chiapa de Corzo.
The cost of a 2 hour boat ride was more than we had expected but worth every peso. Our tickets were $190 pesos each which also included a $30 peso wristband for entry to the national park. From what we saw, this was a pretty standard and fixed price so Wes' bargaining skills didn't do much for us this time.
When To Go
If you're planning to visit the canyon as we did, it's best to go earlier in the morning but also not too early. Reason being, a boat will have to fill up before going through the canyon so arriving at the crack of dawn might mean you'll have to wait a while till everyone else wakes up. We got to Chiapa de Corzo at around 9:30am and were on the water by 10:30am. It took a bit of time to fill up our 20-person boat but there are also smaller, 10-person boats being serviced in the area. Also, avoid arriving late in the day (say 3-4pm) because we've read of people being turned away when they were the only ones waiting for a tour and no boat would take them without a group.
It's also worth noting that in this region, rainy season is from late May to October. Apparently, as more rain water collects in the river, so does excess garbage. The area has done A LOT of work in recent years to keep the river clean and throughout our tour we only saw a couple of plastic bottles here and there. But during rain season, there would likely be more garbage floating in the weather, especially along the shores.
I expected the canyon would be impressive and it certainly did not disappoint. But what surprised me the most about our boat trip was all the wildlife we saw along the way. From crocodiles to birds and even a couple of monkeys hidden in the trees! It sounded like our guide was very informative but, because we were sitting right at the front of the boat, we missed a lot of what he was saying. Plus it was all in Spanish. I was excited to see the waterfalls but apparently the rivers that feed these falls only run during rainy season. The tour actually ended up being almost 2.5 hours and once the boat arrives at a dam in the northern part of the canyon, we turned around and headed back to the town.
After our visit to Sumidero Canyon without a tour, we came to see that the prices we were originally quoted in San Cristobal were a great deal! Lesson learned for us.
Hostels We Stayed At
Our trip to Sumidero Canyon was definitely a highlight for us but that's not the only thing we loved about Chiapas. During our week there, we stayed at 2 incredible hostels that we recommend and would stay at again!
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS HOSTEL
We spent 5 great nights at La Puerto Vieja Hostel and really enjoyed our stay. We booked 3 nights in a dorm and then tacked on another 2 nights in a private. Beds are comfortable, lockers are provided and the bathroom facilities are great too. The hostel has a relaxed vibe and organizes different nightly events like pizza nights, themed nights and they have a nice bar/backyard area too. Our favourite part was probably the fresh, homemade breakfasts that change daily and are better than some food we've had in restaurants! The staff is very helpful with booking tours and the owner Fernando has great tips on the area.
TUXTLA GUTIERREZ HOSTEL
Hostal Tres Central is new, clean and comfortable. We didn't love the city of Tuxtla but we did enjoy our time at the hostel. The internet connection is SO good, the rooms have A/C (at night) and the rooftop bar has some great views. Breakfast is minimal (sweet bread and coffee) but the hostel is located a short walk from the main plaza where there are plenty of restaurants, pharmacies, convenience stores, etc.
We hope this post was either helpful or inspiring because that's what we strive for! Enjoy your day at Sumidero Canyon and subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with all our posts and videos :)